Frank Ocean recently released his debut album, Channel Orange, to relative critical acclaim. Ocean, who is known foremost as a member of the hip hop, alternative rap collective Odd Future, has been cited as saying that the album was written to tell the story of his first summer love and that the eponymous colour describes the emotions he felt at this time perfectly. Ocean states, ‘even though it’s my voice, I’m a storyteller.’
The album opens with a series of melancholy songs, such as ‘Thinkin’ ’bout you” and ‘Sierra Leone’, which suggest the beginnings of a romance mixed with the teenage reluctance to admit true emotion. These tracks are interlaced with soundbytes (‘Start’ and ‘Fertilizer’) made up of Playstation music and television static giving a certain ’90s kid’ feel to the album.
The album then progresses into songs of resentment and disappointment concerning the relationship that Ocean secretly craved at the beginning of the album with tracks like ‘Pilot Jones’. The mood swings into anger and details an emotional breakup though the polyphonic sounds found in songs like ‘Pyramids’. This leads us to the end of the album which progresses the mood into a retrospective chill detailing Ocean’s immaturity and assure the listener that summer romances are aides in growth and self-improvement. This is shown through titular pop culture references in songs like ‘Forrest Gump’.
In a general sense Channel Orange may seem very dense in emotion for a debut album however Ocean shows true promise by breaking out of his devilishly immature mantra that he holds in Odd Future through his modern take on R&B. Ocean may be new to the mainstream music scene but because of his daring decisions he has landed a #2 spot on the US album charts. To top that ‘Pyramids’ also plays rather ominously on the McDonalds playlist in the UK, an achievement many debut artists would and should be proud of.
Written by Fraser Tait